It takes all sorts to recycle


February 20, 2018


Kerbside recycling has been part of Australian recycling practice since the late 80’s and early 90’s, with most homes having access to a collection service for commingled recyclables.

The mix of paper, plastic, steel, aluminium and glass from the yellow-lid bin is separated into more specific streams at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) (watch this video to see how it’s done).

This is called single-stream recycling.

Single-stream vs sorting at the source

Single-stream collection is popular for increasing recycling rates because it’s more convenient for householders, but the range of items accepted can lead to confusion, and contamination is a big problem for kerbside recycling.

Plastic bags, bagged recyclables, liquids and textiles are all major risks to recycling as they reduce the quality of the load, making materials unsuitable for resale to secondary markets, and the processing of recyclables more difficult.

Source separation involves separating waste into common material streams or categories for separate collection. Sorting at the source involves having more bins available at the home, office or site, so that consumers can put the correct item in the bin.

Goods and materials commonly targeted for source separation include:

• construction and demolition waste (such as concrete, bricks and timber)
• organic matter (such as food waste and garden waste)
• reusable items (such as clothes and accessories, household items and appliances)
• packaging and paper (such as cardboard, glass, plastics and aluminium cans)
• hazardous wastes (such as paint, batteries, chemicals and biomedical items)

(Source: Waste Authority: Source Separation of Waste Position Statement)

Waste separation in action

Source separation in action

Container deposit schemes in New South Wales and South Australia are a great example of sorting at the source, where eligible beverage containers made of plastics, glass, aluminium, steel and liquid paperboard can be returned to collection centres for a refund.

Businesses that produce commercial, industrial and construction waste are well-positioned to sort at the source and maximise the amount of material that can be recycled.

Cleanaway’s packaging waste recycling service allows businesses to separate cardboard, paper, plastic and polystyrene into a single bin, keeping it in optimal condition for sorting and recycling at the MRF.

Waste in the MRF - CleanawaySimilarly, automotive workshops can recycle their oily rags, oil filters and coolants, when they get their waste oil and liquid waste collected.

Material production and consumption is not slowing down so we will all need to play a greater role in maximising the resources that can be recovered, and reducing waste sent to landfill. Sorting at the source is the best way to ensure your waste can be recovered.

Contact us today to find out how you can improve your recycling rates with a collection service.